Genesis 4:2b-7 (New Living Translation)
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift– the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
It’s difficult being a parent. You constantly have to be looking for the best way to guide your child to a healthy life. Your guidance sometimes sounds like irrational strictness or unfair boundaries to a child who wants to explore and experience. Often the well-meaning advice is ignored entirely. And if that is true of human parents, it is infinitely more true of God.
We’re told in today’s reading that Cain brought “some of his crops” as a gift to God, while Abel brought the best of his newborn flock. So, was it the quality of the boys’ gifts that made the difference? Does God need our earthly goods? No. It’s all God’s– we’re just the caretakers for a while.
So what made the difference? Attitude.
Abel gave from the best he had, and it was accepted because his gift showed trust and gratitude. Cain’s gift was refused because it reflected joyless obligation– it reads as if he just picked up what happened to be lying around.
Why would God care so much about attitude? Because thoughts lead to action. In the amazing interaction above, God speaks directly to Cain, offering him advice: “Watch out! Sin is crouching at the door!” A disgruntled, dissatisfied, resentful attitude yields more of the same. And that mindset opens us up to tempting thoughts of revenge, of retribution, or reprisal. That is what God is so compassionately trying to warn Cain of here: “Get your head on straight, son! Down this path you’ll find nothing good.”
But Cain doesn’t listen to this loving advice. Next thing we read, Cain lures his brother out into a field. And kills him.
Sin was crouching outside the door… and Cain invited it in.
Are you giving the best of yourself to God? What are some of the negative attitudes that you are holding onto right now? How could those attitudes lead to actions that could damage you or others? How can God help you in healing those attitudes?